Whilst travelling round South Africa for three months we embarked on a detour into landlocked Lesotho. Due to time constraints we decided to join onto the private “Roof of Africa” tour provided by Sani Lodge. What was planned as a quiet relaxing day hiking in the Ts’ehlanyane National Park turned out to be anything but boring as we spent time getting to know our guide Matthew; allowing our eyes to feast on breathtaking scenery; and even getting a chance to meet the people who call this National Park their home.
Day Four: Ts’ehlanyane National Park
After a breakfast fit for kings and queens we donned walking boots and raincoats to begin a half day hike starting on the lower trail as far as the Three Cascades waterfalls (Mats’a-Marano) at which point we would return on the higher trail to complete the loop. We didn’t fancy the longer full day hike as we wanted some relaxation time but Matthew would have been happy to lead on either trail and we did meet another walker who opted for this.
As we began our walk it was clear that the much needed rain that this valley had received would give us a few challenges along the way. Luckily Matthew was there for me as I balanced precariously over stepping stones in an ever rising stream; whined constantly at the temperature of the water as we wadded through the deeper sections barefoot; and even caught me on more than one occasion as I almost face-planted the muddy floor.
Following the river on the lower trail we were glad for the company of Matthew not only to ensure we didn’t get lost but as great company and someone with a large amount of factual knowledge about the park. With most of the terrain rising above 2000 m to just above 3000 m it was impressive from all angles with forests suited to fairytales and streams/pools filled with crystal clear water. Eventually, after a slightly steeper section increasing our altitude further, we were rewarded with the sight of the Three Cascades waterfall (Mats’a-Marano). We spent time enjoying the tranquil atmosphere that you could lose yourself in. After a few impressive panoramic photographs, we had fun with Matthew as our photographer in getting some comedy shots.
Backtracking only a little, Matthew guided us onto the upper trail, once more pointing out the flora and fauna of the park. We had yet more chilling encounters with river crossings including my amazing leap of faith where I leapt higher than any human from a standing start to cover the full expanse of the water before me. Matthew just laughed, amazed at what I can do when faced with yet another waterway to cross and the prospect of having to remove my boots once more! With rain just beginning we were glad to see the back of the lodge emerging from the forest though I doubt the staff were pleased as with muddy boots we made our way to the dining room for a late lunch.
Not wanting to waste the afternoon and keen to see a little more of the National Park, Matthew kindly took us out on a small drive where we were able to see how the local people lived. We stopped to chat to some including a group of children who were excited yet shy to see us; another traditional healer; and a group of men outside a local shop (one of which worked at Maliba Lodge) about life in the park. Once more, it was these unplanned encounters that allowed us to really begin to understand the culture of the Basotho people. Dinner was once again taken at the main lodge and was a candle-lit affair in front of a log fire with good company. We laughed about the fun we had day and became sad to think that tomorrow we would be leaving Lesotho.
We opted for a paid tour of Lesotho due to time constraints and were not disappointed as it was our guide Matthew who made it a highlight of our time in Southern Africa. If you have more time then as always a self-guided tour could be the best way to maximise your time, keep costs down and give you the flexibility you want. Our good friend Ivan over at NoLegRoom did just that and you can read how he got on via his blog. As always, please free to comment and sign up for updates so you don’t miss day five.